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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Twelfth Night

Also see Susan's review of Gypsy


Alex Mills and Irina Tsikurishvili
Synetic Theater returns to form with an effervescent production of Twelfth Night, the company's 10th work of "silent Shakespeare." Director Paata Tsikurishvili has set the comedy of misunderstandings in the 1920s of silent movies, bootleggers, and conspicuous consumption, which allows for some of William Shakespeare's more famous lines to appear as silent film titles on a screen.

Because Synetic's method is about "fitting the action to the word," to paraphrase Shakespeare, adapter Nathan Weinberger adds a prologue that sets up the initial plot situation. The audience first sees twins Viola (Irina Tsikurishvili) and Sebastian (Alex Mills) as entertainers on board a cruise ship, dressed in matching men's suits until Viola changes into a sparkling flapper dress. After a shipwreck separates the twins, all the rescued Viola has is a suitcase containing her men's clothes—so that is what she wears as she makes her way.

Vision and deceptive surfaces are the key visual motifs of this production. Two clowns representing a director and a stagehand appear on the fringes of the action throughout, setting up scenes and occasionally providing some charming, low-tech special effects. Also, many scenes conjured up in the play by Shakespeare's words—Olivia's (Kathy Gordon) frenzied mourning for her own brother, Malvolio's (Irakli Kavsadze) fantasies of Olivia's love—appear as if on film, enacted by live actors behind an illuminated screen.

As Viola, Irina Tsikurishvili serves as the heart of this production: stalwart, determined to do what's right no matter how ridiculous the situation might be. Gordon is a study in contrasts, whose black mourning dress still has a fashionable fringed hem, while Philip Fletcher is sleekly appealing as Orsino. Kavsadze is deliriously funny as Malvolio as he shifts from smug contentment to unrestrained gestures of love and lust.

Kendra Rai's costume design (commedia dell'arte meets the Roaring Twenties) and Colin K. Bills' exaggerated lighting design add measurably to the illusion, which culminates in an extended dancing finale to Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing."

Synetic Theater
Twelfth Night
January 9th - February 16th
Adapted by Nathan Weinberger from the play by William Shakespeare
Viola: Irina Tsikurishvili
Orsino: Philip Fletcher
Malvolio: Irakli Kavsadze
Olivia: Kathy Gordon
Feste: Ben Cunis
Sebastian: Alex Mills
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Dallas Tolentino
Maria: Irina Kavsadze
Sir Toby Belch: Hector Reynoso
Fabian/Ensemble: Vato Tsikurishvili
Ensemble: Janine Baumgardner, Randy Snight, Zana Gankhuyang, Rebecca Hausman
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 866-811-4111 or www.synetictheater.org


Photo: Koko Lanham


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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